From Struggle to Success: The Journey of Starting PlumbSmart Plumbing

From Struggle to Success: The Journey of Starting PlumbSmart Plumbing

It was May of 2008 when I realized I needed to provide a future for my family. I didn't just want to provide for my family; I always wanted to help people. When I worked for others, I often encountered people who really needed help but couldn't find it. I'd have to ask permission to help them, and even when I had a good-paying job where I could dictate my schedule, I was often told I couldn't help due to liability reasons. This was very frustrating for me.


I talked it over with my wife Cindy, who has been a rock and a solid foundation for me. I shared my worries and struggles, expressing my desire to truly help people. I continued working for others, helping other contractors, but I hadn't started my own company because I didn't know how. I didn't even know the questions to ask.


One night in June, Cindy and I were sitting in our small living room, wondering how we were going to make it. This was during the Great Recession, and construction work was drying up. Many days, I would either not go to work or come home early because there was simply no work. I told Cindy I wanted to start my own plumbing company. She hugged me and told me she was behind me in whatever I decided to do. Her support gave me the confidence I needed.


I learned about the small business incubator at the local community college, AB Tech, and met with Jill Sparks, the director. She introduced me to Michael Sowinski from CFO Consultants, who told me everything I needed to start a business. We came up with the name "PlumbSmart" after brainstorming various options. Cindy suggested it because I always wanted to help and educate people about plumbing.


I registered for a tax ID, opened a bank account, and got introduced to QuickBooks. I then needed a van to work out of, but we had no money and were living on credit cards. I asked my father-in-law for a $1,500 loan to buy a used van. He agreed, and I purchased a 2006 Ford Econoline van. A friend offered me shelving for the van, and I stocked it with materials from Contractor Access.


Every morning, I would walk up and down my driveway, praying for God to give me someone to help. One day in July, I felt excited and told Cindy I had a job, even though I had no idea where it was. Soon after, I got a call from Bruegger's Bagels about a leak. Then, I received more calls, and my day was filled with jobs. God had lined up everything for me.


Over the years, as work increased, I hired employees. My first employee was Mike Porcenaluk, a good friend who was skilled and hardworking. I remember one time he dug a 15-foot ditch under a deck with just a serving spoon. That showed me his dedication and desire to help.


Mike worked for me for about three years before moving back to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Through it all, the journey of starting and growing PlumbSmart has been challenging but rewarding. We've stayed true to our mission of helping and educating people, and Cindy's unwavering support has been crucial every step of the way.


- Don Hilderbrand
PlumbSmart Plumbing and Drains

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